Tiger is a 7 year-old boy, surrendered to us for a peeing problem. Medical checks tell us that it’s not physiological – he’s just one of those cats who’s got out of the habit of using a litter-box. He’s a beautiful boy with classic tabby markings, and right from the beginning he was friendly with people who visited him. We hoped that the peeing problem might go away, and that he could eventually be adopted out, but no such luck – either it’s hardwired into him now, or he is so easily stressed that it’s his way of coping with things.
The smell of pee, of course, is one of the ways that a cat marks its own territory, and Tiger has claimed the cage he was placed in as his space – even though the door has been opened for some time, he is reluctant to wander too far, and constantly returns to the place he feels most comfortable. He’s not a food-motivated boy, but one who enjoys gentle petting, and a human that will allow him to roll and have his belly stroked.
Sprocket came in to us about the same time as Tiger as one of a pair of feral cats caught in north Richmond by Stephanie, our most experienced trapper. They are probably about a year old. His brother Rocket (also orange) tested positive for feline AIDS, and is now living in the New Aids pen. Both were very shy; when startled, Rocket will fly around erratically, and we’ve learned to move very gently around him. Sprocket was caged in a corner of the DoubleWide, and for several weeks remained hiding in his carrier. The med-staff worked with him, and eventually he learned that humans were worth purring for.
Once the Kitty Comforter team set to work, Sprocket decided he was on to a good thing. Though still very timid, he would sit within reach and allow gentle petting; for a while we had to be very wary because we wanted to keep him caged, and he would sit a little too close to the door for comfort.
Eventually Leslie decided that cage-time was no longer necessary, and his door was opened. Being a cat, he promptly decided that this was where he really wanted to be, and for a while longer, we continued to serve his dinner to him. But obviously, when humans weren’t around, Sprocket started exploring, and was often found in the cage opposite his own.
And then he vanished. There was some concern – had he gone out on the deck with the ferals? Had he somehow got past the main door? When we have new cats around, it is kept closed, but experienced paws have learned to open it for themselves. With some relief, we found that Sprocket had not gone far – he’d braved the diagonally opposite corner of the DoubleWide and found Tiger’s open cage.
For some time we consistently found the two of them together. Occasionally they snuggled; mostly they lay separately, but each obviously took comfort in the other’s presence. The older, steady boy, and the younger, still easily startled feral made a good pair. And gradually Tiger was completing the Kitty Comforters’ work, and letting his buddy know that he was in a place of safety and one where humans are not to be feared.
Both cats have moved on now – each one has gained confidence from the other’s presence. Tiger has remained in the DoubleWide – he likes warmth and comfort. But he’s no longer confining himself to his original cage area, and he’s often found buddying up with Pancake.
Sprocket has made his way into the great outdoors, and is usually found in the Newcomers area with the other shy cats. Kitty Comforters and regular staff and volunteers are watching for him, and making sure he remembers that we aren’t to be feared.